Even in a normal year, a lot of news can happen in 10 days. Unfortunately for someone with intermittent internet connection, 2011 has been far from a normal year, so the last 10 days have seen almost too many events to process. The US debt deal was cobbled together at the 11th hour, a flat-out Mubarak went on trial in Egypt and things took a further turn for the worst in the Horn of Africa as sensitivity-deficient columnist Liz Jones was sent to cover the disaster by the Daily Mail.
With the attention being constantly prodded in the manner of a TV remote control button by a bored viewer – Libya! America! Syria! Greece! Egypt! Britain! Somalia! – one country which doesn’t like to shout too loud might have slipped from your field of vision. Yet help is still needed for those living in Japan’s 2,559 evacuation centres as the five-month anniversary of the earthquake approaches. That their lives have been altered forever is beyond doubt, but how to make a new start remains unclear when the basics are lacking. Temporary housing is slowly being built, but water supplies are contaminated and the economic future of many small towns is uncertain. While survivors such as Jun Suzuki are hopeful that they can rebuild:
I wish I can stay in my hometown. This is where I was born.
Such hopes may not be easily realised. The affected areas of Japan were not in a position of strength even before the earthquake, as outlined by Christian Dimmer, an urban design specialist, in this article on Imagining an Alternative Future for Japan. He notes that,
the Great East Japan Earthquake hit hundreds of kilometers of coastline in mostly rural regions with a population of nearly 7 million, 22% of whom were older than 65.
Even before the catastrophic events of March, many of the younger inhabitants of the area had left for jobs and study in Tokyo, leaving the traditional economic bases of agriculture and fishing diminished. For some communities, rebuilding may prove an impossible task. Many may never recover. For others, the immediate need to provide temporary solutions may crowd out attempts to plan for long-term survival, as it is understandably impossible to try to imagine the future when you are living day-to-day.
Faced with such huge questions, alongside so much additional trauma being inflicted worldwide, it is easy to feel powerless. However, an alternative view is that many of these problems are the result of a delegation of too much responsibility to politicians and vested interests. If we are going to find a way around them it will take billions of small efforts, made by each one of us, to try to change our futures for the better. This is something I want to give more consideration to on ten minutes hate soon, so please let me know what you think in the comments below.
In the meantime, you can also donate to projects like Quakebook, which are supporting the work of the Japanese Red Cross to assist those living in the disaster areas. The DEC page for donations to East Africa is here.